Hemingway’s Bangkok

Despite the many stories lined up untold so far I would like to talk about a fresh experience from two nights ago first. I am staying again in Bangkok with all it’s perks for a Foodie like me. This results in hunting for new undiscovered Thai food places on a daily basis, diving into amazing Thai dishes from known and new places, enjoying soups, salads, seafood, vegetables, the occasional sausage or meat dishes and all the other wonders the Thai kitchen has to offer. Rarely I am interested in Farang food around here but it happens. Yesterday was such a day.

I was reading about a new newly opened restaurant in a traveler forum with often lots of local and resourceful insides. This time it came in form of a raving review about the Hemigway’s Bangkok, the venue itself, the food, the Mojitos served and pretty much everything else was praised… the whole nine yards. The website also makes a good impression. I was hooked.

Impressive building in Asoke just behind the BTS station

Since I checked in that day in a hotel just around the corner, the decision came shorthand to try that place even that evening. A friend was easily convinced and after some pre dinner cocktails we walked the short way to the restaurant.

[To get there and back:
The Heminway’s is conveniently located at BTS station Asoke and Soi 14 – easy to reach even from anywhere else in Bangkok by using the BTS. A taxi to Asoke is not a good idea though due to traffic in that area. Taking one back should work fine at later hours and due to the exit of Soi 14 and the traffic flow away from the always clogged intersection at Asoke.]

Once we arrived, we realized, from outside this place is kinda impressive: A nice peace of land in a good location with enough green to overshadow that ‘big city’ Asoke feeling and a carefully restaurated front of the building. It exudes a colonial feeling… in a good way.

hemingways-terrace

With these impressions the mood was rising and we were filled with the anticipation of a nice dinner and evening.

Entering through the front porch and looking for a decent table came a little as a cold shower. The interior cannot compete with the outside at all. The interior and decor is bland and not that inviting… but should not be a reason for complains. Just in my opinion, I’d just prefer it less decorative from the outside and more from the inside, since that is the area where I spend most time as a patron. My mother once referred to that principle as ‘wearing the fur to the inside‘, which I hold high personally, may it be with cars or condos or whatever. Anyway that is my personal preference.

Getting tucked in a corner, we were going over the menu and ordered some drinks. That included the highly recommended Mojito as the signature drink of the house, which makes sense, regarding the name of the place and together with the daiquiri one of the alleged favorite drinks of Hemingway in his chosen home Havanna on the tropical island of Cuba. At least that is what I learned when I visited Havanna and made an appearance at two of the alleged favorite bars of his. One even with a live size figure of him standing on the bar drinking.
Other voices point out that Hemingway was a diabetic and took all his drinks without sugar. This is why many believe these famous two drinks were just a marketing scheme. And two of the “7 Things You Didn’t Know About Ernest Hemingway’s Drinking Habits” are 1. The mojito was not Hemingway’s favorite drink and 2. Hemingway had several go-to cocktails, but his favorite was a dry martini.
I will not contribute to that discussion as it does not matter here. In the end, a real nice Mojito is of refreshing magic and one of my favorite drinks in tropical climate and taken frequently in Bangkok – preferably in Bamboo Chic and BarSu.

IMG_20130402_201710 (Medium)With this in my mind you might understand why we were thrown by the appearance of the served Mojito. It was nice looking, yes but extremely sour and with horrible taste. Kindly asking for a milder remake, we were presented a drink nearly without limes and taste at all, watery and overall poor. I find this hardly acceptable for a signature cocktail and the price tag of a five star hotel bar.

Initially I thought in their defense, that the current summer season is really bad for limes. Even the big hotel bars I visited frequently the week before struggle with the quality of the available limes right now and the impact on their taste on drinks. But at this issue was always 1. communicated upfront and 2. dealt with taste wise, as a result I got my Mojitos slightly different in taste but still delicious and not that poor. The two examples we got served here, are hardly acceptable, signature drink or not.

Since we were not that hungry and more in the mood for sampling the taste, we decided to order promising looking dishes and share. So for food we ordered from the mains the
Grass-fed Lava Coal Australia Grilled Sirloin with Saluted Kale, Hand Cut Chunky Fries; with a choice of sauce … Mushroom | Red Wine Jus | Béarnaise | Pepper or Chef’s choice “Cafe de Paris and Red Wine Jus”.
in medium-rare and a large
Caesar Cardini Salad, Romaine Lettuce, Parmesan Cheese, Croutons, Caesar dressing.

Both sound delicious and we were anxious to see if the Australian Sirloin as a prime peace of meat could rival the beloved New York Steak House in the JW Marriott or at least the Argentinian El Gauchos at Asoke (which both are very much overdue of a report here). Both places are higher on the price tag on the meat but play in the same ball park for many if not most menu items. Comparing the Hemingway’s with those seems fair, considering their way of presenting themselves and their price tag.

IMG_20130402_201939 (Large)I will not build up this night and the patience any longer. Everything coming after this point were a complete and utterly disaster.  The Australian Sirloin came as a dry, totally overcooked peace of non tasting meat.  In German we would call this (poorly translated) a “shoe sole”. The potatoes and the chosen mushroom sauce with the meat were simply bad. The Kale sitting underneath the meat was kinda OK but not in any position to save this meal. I tried a byte, my companion also and we decided to give back this dish immediately.

IMG_20130402_201649 (Large)The Caesars Salad was also pretty weak. You get a better one in any shopping mall restaurant for a fraction of the price.

All in all, we were thrown back to reality, hard. After the good first impression, the hardly acceptable experience with the Mojito, the quality of the food and the presentation is simply not acceptable.
And may I stress or better recommend a quick view on the price tag of the menu items, which do not include 10% service charge and VAT?

I was simply shocked. Calling for someone to address the issues caused a major stir-up. I don’t like to deal with that kind of occasions very audible. My bad experience does not have to impact the maybe pleasant stay of other patrons on the next table. But speaking calm and in a soft voice did not really make an effort with the staff. In other words they did not really understand what the problem might be, when I asked them to take back the dishes to the kitchen.
After a few minutes of confusion I decided to ask for the bill. That was clearly understood and instead of talking to us or bringing the bill, it took again minutes but a Farang guy was called from the kitchen. I assume he is British or Australian and might be completely wrong here. He was approaching us already talking about “the meat was a little overcooked…” before we even could describe our issues. I took the liberty to start with the ill-made cocktail before describing the bad meat dish and bland salad, everything in a calm voice and as polite as possible. And since he seems to be the chef, I added that I do not want to offend his cooking. He made a flustered appearance, was pretty much just standing there uttering “every feedback is good feedback…” but from there pretty much offering nowhere to go. Then abruptly he mumbled “just a moment”, turned around and left in the kitchen.

Since we had no idea what’s going on, I was asking for the check again, what made the manager (she was hardly managing or being responsible for anything, not before not after) explain us, that we would get some other dishes. At this point, it was stretched to far and to late for us. We announced again that we would prefer to leave the establishment. Highly confused she walked around a while not knowing what to do and let us wait. Finally, roughly thirty minutes after calling in the first time, she agreed on letting us go and presented us the bill…. in full amount and I might add, for Bangkok circumstances a serious number. I had this kind of bill only in very few places in Bangkok so far and was shocked due to the full amount presented even when we were obviously not happy and sending the food  back to the kitchen – hardly touched. I have a hard time to remember when something like this happened before…

I spare you the details of the next steps. Just leave it like this, after a long time of waiting, the manager running around not knowing what to do but also not wanted us to leave, I put down the major part of the sum in cash, getting this behind me and also not wanting any of that memory on my credit card, in order to finally leave that premises. Even then the manager was not in liberty to let us go, holding us back, waiting for someones approval or direction how to proceed.

Finally leaving the place miserably and pretty unhappy about the loss of time, money for nothing and our good mood. In hind side this experience still makes me furious when thinking about it. Sadly though, since I was happy in the beginning to find something new to go to around Asoke. This I can conclude quite firmly did not happen.

I would be interested in the experience of other guest in this establishment. Did they match ours or were they totally different and even positive? Leave me a comment below. With some feedback I will pick that topic up again later.

This entry was posted in Bangkok, Food, Steak, Thailand. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Hemingway’s Bangkok

  1. Fall says:

    Just a little confusion, you order the Australian Sirloin but you wrote that you are being served Argentinian? That steak does look a tad too dry and cooked to Medium.

    I’m sure you know that Service of 10% and Government Tax 7% is standard at all restaurants in Bangkok nowadays regardless of low or high end.

    I have yet to find a good steak in Thailand, especially ones that advertise as steak house. The decent steaks I had were actually from Italian restaurants. Perhaps you could look for a good steak there.

    Its also amazing to see how much a decent meal (western food) costs here and the portion served compare to Europe or US.

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